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Lealiifano diagnosed with Leukaemia

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 6/08/2016

Christian Lealiifano © Getty Images Christian Lealiifano From the Rio Olympics to the world champion All Blacks, the international sporting community has rallied behind Wallabies playmaker Christian Lealiifano, after news he has been diagnosed with leukaemia.

The 28-year-old Brumbies co-captain, who was not named on Friday in the Wallabies squad, is in hospital receiving treatment.

The Brumbies said, in a statement, that after a brief illness, investigations revealed the disease.

"At the moment, it's just a matter of ensuring Christian receives the best care and support he can at this time," Brumbies chief Phil Thomson said.

"He is one of the most-respected players within this group and this news has come as a huge shock to all of our players, coaches and staff."

The Wallabies were among the first to tweet their support for Lealiifano, who has played 19 Tests, most recently coming off the bench in all three matches of the June series against England.

"Thoughts and prayers to one of the most respected and loved players in the #wallabies family," the Wallabies tweeted.

Several Wallabies posted individual messages of support including Israel Folau and former captain James Horwill and ex-Brumbies teammate Matt Giteau, saying they were devastated by the news.

Tweets of support also came from several overseas internationals, including England's Danny Care and Joe Marler, and New Zealanders Tim Nanai-Williams and Adam Thomson.

New of Lealiifano's condition put a dampener on the excitement generated by the Olympic opening ceremony in Rio.

"Just finished marching in Opening Ceremony & received the news on @CLealiifano,"tweeted Australian men's sevens coach Andy Friend, who coached Lealiifano at the Brumbies.

"My night doesn't feel so special anymore. Get well Bruz." Friend added. Australian Rugby Union (ARU) boss Bill Pulver, who is also in Rio, pledged his organisation's support.

"We were shocked to receive the news of Christian's diagnosis yesterday and our thoughts are firmly with him as he begins his treatment," Pulver said via a statement.

"Anyone who has ever had any involvement with Christian knows he is an outstanding young man, as well as being an exceptionally talented rugby player, and the ARU will do whatever it can to support Christian and his family now and throughout his treatment."

Among the teams tweeting their thoughts and support were rival Australian Super Rugby franchises and world champions New Zealand.

Legendary Wallabies centre Tim Horan and All Blacks great Tana Umaga were among the past players to post supportive messages.

"Be strong and fight through it, family and friends will get you through this," Horan tweeted. NSW State of Origin and Australian rugby league prop Aaron Woods was among other well wishers to post a tweet.

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